THE conservative Evangelical group Reform has pulled out of
shared conversations about same-sex unions initiated by the Pilling
report. It is claiming that "orthodox Anglicans" are being excluded
by the terms of reference for the conversations.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the chairman of the Reform
council, Prebendary Rod Thomas, said: "The shared conversations
must acknowledge that scripture remains authoritative for the
Church of England, and that the outcome of the conversations is
"Unless that is clarified, and the recently announced new
objective is withdrawn, we cannot see a way forward."
Reform has criticised what it described as changes to the aims
of the conversations, announced after they were piloted by the
College of Bishops last month (
News, 19 September). However, a spokesman from Church House
denied that a statement released after the College met altered the
objectives of the conversations which were set out in
"It was no more than a general report of the proceedings and
should not be over-interpreted," the spokesman added.
The statement said that participants in the conversations should
make it possible for everyone to "live together as a family who
disagree with one another". Reform argues that this would require
participating members to reject the C of E's current teaching
that sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage is wrong.
Reform's statement also calls for the Bishop of Buckingham, the
Rt Revd Alan Wilson, a prominent and vocal supporter of same-sex
marriage, and the author of More Perfect Union? Understanding
same-sex marriage, to be "admonished" for failing to uphold
the Church's teaching on sexuality, and for calling conservative
Separately, up to 300 Anglicans, including dozens of priests and
one serving bishop, have signed an open letter that urges gay
bishops to reveal their sexuality publicly.
The letter, "A Love Letter to Gay Bishops", appeared in The
Sunday Telegraph this week. It states: "We write to assure
those bishops who may choose to openly acknowledge their sexual
orientation as gay or bisexual that you will receive our support,
prayer, and encouragement.
"Sadly, we live at a time when those who are honest about being
LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex] and
Christians are treated with hostility by a vocal minority within
and outside the Church.
"We have no doubt that the vast majority of Anglicans will
welcome and embrace those of you who are gay or bisexual for your
courage and conviction if you come out."
The letter was organised by the pressure group Changing
Attitude, which campaigns for the "full inclusion" of LGBTI people
in the C of E. The letter was also signed by non-Anglicans,
including Methodist ministers, Baptists, members of the United
Reformed Church, and Roman Catholics.
The signatories insist that they do not support "outing" gay
bishops against their will, but say to any bishops who are gay: "If
you stand out we will stand beside you."
The Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, a vicar in the diocese of
Durham, signed the letter. She said on Monday that, while she
wanted any gay bishops to come out, she still had empathy with
those who had not. "I think there is a huge amount of pressure on
bishops to toe the line and be quiet. I thought the letter was a
small gesture, but maybe it could help create a safer and more
Dr Threlfall-Holmes said that younger Christians especially
would see the "hypocrisy" of secretly gay bishops as a sin, not
being gay itself.
Another signatory was the Revd Benny Hazlehurst, assistant
chaplain at a young offenders institution in Dorset, and the
director of Accepting Evangelicals, a group that supports same-sex
partnerships. He said that the letter was not an attempt to
intimidate gay bishops into coming out, but to support any who
"might have the courage" to be open about their sexuality.
"We do need some openness and honesty in this if we are going to
move forward as a Church," he said. "The [Pilling conversations]
will be severely hampered if we don't find it in our hearts to
welcome the honesty of people at every level of church life."
He hoped that personal relationships in the College of Bishops
were strong enough that coming out "would lead to a pastoral
response rather than knee-jerk one".
Among the 300 signatories was the Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan
Wilson, who has suggested in a new book that there are could be
many as ten gay bishops in the College (News, 3
The only two priests known to have entered a gay marriage - the
Vicar of St Mary with All Souls', Kilburn, and St James's, West
Hampstead, the Revd Andrew Foreshew-Cain; and Canon Jeremy
Pemberton, Deputy Senior Chaplain and Deputy Bereavement and
Voluntary Services Manager in the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS
Trust - have also signed the letter.
Canon Pemberton has launched a legal action against the
Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, and the Acting Bishop of Southwell
& Nottingham, the Rt Revd Richard Inwood, after another NHS
trust withdrew the offer of an appointment, owing to Bishop
Inwood's refusal to grant him a licence (News,
Gay-rights activists supporting Canon Pemberton, and led by the
veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell, confronted Dr Sentamu on Tuesday
at an event at Southwell Minster. Among the demonstrators was Davis
Mac-Iyalla, a Nigerian gay Christian activist (see book
Mr Tatchell told Dr Sentamu to "repent your support for anti-gay
discrimination", but the Archbishop said that he could not comment
because of the ongoing legal case. A spokeswoman for the Archbishop
also declined to comment later that day, on the same grounds.